the english clergy assocation

latest news and events

News and Events

The present issue of Parson & Parish is the 177th - a new issue is in preparation, and contributions are always invited, including Letters to the Editor. We have most of the old issues, as does Lambeth Palace Library, and the Copyright Deposit Libraries. Read the Parson and Parish backnumbers on this site.

The State of the Nation

Where are we as a nation and how did we get to this point? The Christian gospel has been the foundation of our society for hundreds of years, with many of the values and freedoms that we hold most dear flowing from it. However, the UK has seen some dramatic changes in the legal, political and social landscape in recent years as this foundation has come under attack. The Church has been largely silent as these changes have taken place. This presentation highlights the recent challenges to the sanctity of life, marriage and family, and freedom to live as a Christian, how these challenges have come about, and calls the Church to begin speaking again in the public square of the hope of Jesus Christ.

Common Tenure

Traditionally an incumbent possessed a freehold office. In practical term, this meant that an incumbent could not be removed from office otherwise than in accordance with the various Clergy Discipline Measures in force at the time where the commission of an offence against ecclesiastical law had to be established, or in the event that there had been a serious pastoral breakdown in the parish, or if the incumbent was no longer capable of performing the duties of office by reason of age or infirmity of mind or body. By Ecclesiastical Officers (Terms of Service) Measure 2009, the freehold office was replaced by Common Tenure for all new clerical appointments of where an existing incumbent with a freehold office chose to change to Common Tenure.

The Association campaigned against the introduction of the Ecclesiastical Officers (Terms of Service) Measure with its associated Regulations and Code of Practice. The Measure introduces another layer of authority and detailed terms and conditions relating to the exercise of the office. An office holder is required to undergo a ministerial development review every two years. Where an office holder's performance gives cause for concern, a capability procedure may be initiated that may ultimately lead to removal from office. If at the end of the process the office holder is removed from office, he or she has the right to make an application to an Employment Tribunal. The Association considers the use of secular employment tribunials to be wholly inappropriate.

The Association continues to believe that this Measure has removed a very important clerical safeguard to the detriment of the integrity of the clergy and made them vulnerable to outside authority and pressures with the parish. It therefore strongly recommends that incumbents with a freehold office should not relinquish it in favour of common tenure. There would still appear to be some issues not yet fully resolved as to the relationship between ministerial development reviews, capabiity proceedings and clergy discipline. The involvements of bishops and archdeacons in the former may give rise to conflicts of interest in any clergy discipline cases. The Association is continuing to monitor the workings of the new procedure and is prepared to get involved in bringing attention to any failings or unfairness resulting from legislation.

There is a positive side to the Measure insofar that licensed clergy do now have a measure of protection as an office holder, and this is to be welcomed.

It was thought at the time that the Measure might lead to a reduction in the practice of bishops not to fill a vacancy and instead to appoint a priest in charge, since clergy with common tenure are now made more accountable to the bishop thereby reducing the "risk" of making a permanent appointment. However, this does not appear to have happened.

The Association also successfully joined in the campaign to prevent parsonage houses from being transferred to the diocese, and these remain as a part of the endowments of the benefice owned by the incumbent as corporation sole.

Peter M Smith